A quick look at Gaming on NEAR

Since August 16th, I've been writing about a NEAR project every day, and ngl it's quite a challenge to write at least one blog post and thread daily.

But I'm still standing, so there's that. 🙌So, for today, I figured I'd take a bit of a different approach and look at blockchain gaming broadly and three games, particularly running on NEAR. Note that I chose these based on my interests. If you want me to cover other games, I'm sure you know how to comment or DM.

Blockchain x Gaming

I've written at least twice about the intersection of Blockchain and gaming, so I'll save you a deep dive here and provide a quick TLDR.

The issues with centralized gaming studios and publishers range from not actually owning the game items you often worked hard for (and spent money on), an unfair revenue split between studios and designers, cheating, high barriers to entry, and privacy issues.

Implementing Blockchain and NFTs promises to enhance transparency for all parties involved, enable players to own their items, and also studios to own and better manage digital rights. Additionally, on-chain games can enhance monetization and might be better suited to enabling independent designers to launch their games.

For more context on all these points, check out my previous blog posts on blockchain gaming

GameFi vs Play to Earn

Last year, we experienced the huge success of Axie Infinity, and subsequently, its fall from popularity after the token started tanking, and their sidechain got hacked. I guess, in crypto, it might be "You either die a successful Play-to-Earn project, or you get hacked and your token dumps." 😆

It's worth quickly mentioning that GameFi and Play-to-Earn aren't the same. GameFi tends to describe gamified DeFi, whereas Play-to-Earn, it's in the name.

GameFi can be things like Aavegotchi, where you get a cute character that earns yield. It's like getting your bank account as a Tamagotchi — except, in that case, the interest is probably way worse.

Play-to-Earn games enable players to earn a token for their progress in the game. Unfortunately, with those games, the danger is high that we forget what actually matters with games: the fun. Many play-to-earn games aren't fun.

That being said, there are a couple of interesting blockchain game examples I found that use NEAR protocol and look decently fun (if I ever started playing games, that is 🎮)

OP Games

OP games is a gaming company building gaming infrastructure on NEAR. They are behind Arcadia, a community-owned arcade. OP Games' co-founders both have a background in Web2 and realized early on that to go far; they would have to focus on building modular building blocks.

Instead of focusing on just creating their own game, OP games has launched a variety of features other builders and game designers can integrate easily into their games using the SDK, such as:

  • tournaments function
  • leaderboard feature
  • soon NFT wagering, which will enable players to wage their NFTs

The arcade is arleady live, and you can play games from independent designers and studios on it. It's easy and you can even start playing without connecting your wallet.

Hash Rush

Hash Rush is a more sophisticated game than the ones in the arcade. It's a MMO-RTS (Massively Multiplayer Online Realtime Strategy) game. The game is set in the fictional galaxy of Hermian.

Players enter the galaxy after it has been hit by a massive catastrophe known as the crystal storm. During the storm, huge crystals hit planets and buried themselves deep into their surface. Yet, it turns out that was only the beginning as a bigger force is trying to conquer the galaxy.

The game offers three playing modes:

  • standard mode: the main gameplay mode where players receive treasure chests with resources whenever they destroy specific enemy buildings.
  • dungeon mode: in this mode, players face strategic challenges and have to compete with other units.
  • boss assault: is a defensive mission where players select up to 3 heroes, train them and prepare their base for defense until a boss attack happens.

Hash Rush is integrating with the NEAR Blockchain, but interestingly the team has taken a step not immediately to tokenize all items. This is mainly down to minting fees which would add up if you think of thousands of players playing the game.

Instead, players are given a choice. If they want, they can tokenize assets by paying a tokenization fee. Otherwise, whenever a player sells an asset, they will be suggested with a minimum listing price. This price includes the minting fee. If the asset sells below the price, it'll be sold off-chain. If it's above, then it'll be minted and turned into a token.

Currently, Hash Rush is in closed beta. From what I see on Twitter, it seems like quite a sophisticated game (which is good. The team didn't just make a fancy video but is actually building something).

Land to empire

This game also turned up on a few articles about NEAR-based games, so I figured I'd add it as well. It's a play-to-earn mobile-ready strategy game playing in a fantasy world.

Players are lord of the land they own and have to upgrade it using the resources gained from gameplay or from attacks on other players. As a lord of the land, you also get to train your own troops using the in-game resources of gold and elixir. And if you feel like it, you can combine your troops with other players and fight in clan battles.

Every plot of land is an NFT with differing rarity. The game includes an NFT marketplace for selling and purchasing assets and land.

So if you are feeling like building an empire, check it out here.

Overall, the intersection of Blockchain and gaming carries great potential. I am not much of a gamer (I still haven't even touched the building a soviet empire game nor spent much time on capybara spa), but even I can tell that there are huge differences between games that focus on actual gameplay and those making the "to-earn" part their main selling point.

I think that's why we see more "play-and-earn" games popping up. I hope that whenever Blockchain is implemented in-game, it'll be done for the benefit of players and creators. Games should be engaging and fun. The user acquisition strategy should not be "play this game because we pay you for it." Make the game, so fun people want to play it without being paid for it.

My controversial take (and I’ve even said that in public on a NEAR panel here in London), most “to-earn” projects have a gross misunderstanding of human motivation. That’s why they often get exploited in ways such as creating bots to “play” the game for them or coming up with clever ways to pretend to move to earn an app they’re moving when they are not.

In the long run, I am pretty sure the projects that focus on the part that isn’t the earning but actually providing entertainment, challenging gameplay, and intriguing storylines will be the ones to win.

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Naomi Oba

Naomi Oba

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Writer in Crypto — passionate about financial education, blockchain, books, and food.